“Oh Father” is a song by American singer Madonna from her fourth studio album Like a Prayer (1989). It was released as the fourth single from the album on October 24, 1989 by Sire Records. It was going to be re-released in 1991 by The Immaculate Collection but it didn’t make it on the album, but it was on the video version. The song was not released as a single in most European territories until December 24, 1995, when it appeared on the 1995 ballads compilation Something to Remember. Written and produced by Madonna and Patrick Leonard, the nexus of “Oh Father” was the presence of male authoritative figures in Madonna’s life, most prominently her father, Tony Ciccone. Madonna’s relationship with her father had soured, after her mother’s death in 1963 and his remarriage two years later. While developing the Like a Prayer album, Madonna was in an emotional state of mind due to her personal problems, which is reflected in “Oh Father”.
Musically, “Oh Father” is a baroque pop ballad. It was recorded at a studio in the Garment District of New York City. Leonard put together different types of chord progression and created the basic outline of a melody, which Madonna shaped and then wrote lyrics to fit the melody. She used a contrast of timbre while singing the song, which also featured instrumentation from strings, piano, violin and drum machine. “Oh Father” received positive reviews from critics and authors, but commercially was less successful than Madonna’s previous singles. In most of the countries where it was released, the song failed to attain top-ten positions, except in Finland and Italy, where it peaked at number six. It ended Madonna’s string of 16 consecutive top five singles in the United States.
The music video of the song was Madonna’s attempt to embrace and accept her mother’s death. Directed by David Fincher and shot in black-and-white, it shows a little girl playing in the snow, as her mother dies. A grown-up Madonna follows the child and sings the song, as the child runs away from her abusive father. Described by reviewers as “autobiographical”, the video was listed by Rolling Stone as one of “The 100 Top Music Videos”. Scholars noted how Madonna’s persona was split into the child and adult in the video, and one writer described a scene involving the dead mother shown in her wake, with her lips sewn shut, as one of the most disturbing scenes in the history of mainstream music videos—the scene was inspired by Madonna’s memory of her mother from her funeral. “Oh Father” was performed only on the Blond Ambition World Tour in 1990, where Madonna portrayed a woman trying to find her religion and her battle for it.